Happa No Ko, the Leaf People (“Happa No Ko, le peuple de feuilles") by Karin Serres
With this young adult novel entitled Happa No Ko, the Leaf People, Karin Serres draws inspiration from Japanese mythologies to inject poetry into the current conversation around ecology.
At the intersection of writing traditions
Born in 1967, Karin Serres is an author, theatre director and stage designer. It was her studies of stagecraft that first led her to writing for the stage, then for the radio, alongside her work as a novelist. She has created around fifty works, with titles each more dreamlike than the last.
Although Karin Serres published her first adult novel in 2013, The World Without Birds (“Le Monde sans oiseaux"), her work mainly focuses on a younger audience, particularly teenagers, as with Happa No Ko, the Leaf People, a futuristic novel inspired by Japan and released in 2018.
A YA Dystopia
Happa No Ko, the Leaf People takes place in an age of omnipotent technology, where the Earth is now a single, vast country organised into neighbourhoods, and machines have replaced all forms of employment. Human beings have only one thing left to do: play.
In this concrete world where nature and the magical beings that populated it have disappeared, two teenagers who don’t know each other, Madeleine and Ken, wake up one morning with green hands. Is this a new virtual reality game, or a way to reconnect with nature and its creatures?
An ecological fable
Published in 2018, Happa No Ko, the Leaf People feeds into the conversation around the environment, as France and Japan are in the midst of working through their ecological transitions.
Happa No Ko, the Leaf People recounts a young generation’s opposition to growing robotic control and consumer society as they hope to save what remains of nature and humanity. Through her clear, fluid prose and an open end to the novel, Karin Serres offers neither an apocalyptic scenario nor easy optimism.
Between France and Japan
“Happa No Ko means ‘child of leaves’,” explains Karin Serres through the voice of the book's Japanese hero. These little beings are said always to have lived in harmony with humans, appearing to them from time to time and thus maintaining the connection between the environment and our imagination.
Written in Japan during an "Hors les Murs" residency, Karin Serres' novel is inspired by this element of Japanese folklore. The Japanese atmosphere is also reflected in the omnipresence of video games. Happa No Ko, the Leaf People thus juxtaposes traditional beliefs and contemporary entertainment to reveal the contradictions of our Western society.
Happa No Ko, the Leaf People (2018) by Karin Serres is part of the selection at the 2019 Institut Français Pépites Internationales and the Salon du Livre et de la Presse Jeunesse de Montreuil.
This programme promotes French-language children’s literature among French learners around the world. Find out more about Pépites Internationales 2019 ("International Gems”) programme here.
Happa No Ko, the Leaf People is also available on culturethèque.